In the first Likehacks meta question we agreed that product recommendations, especially those without usage guidance, are off-topic.

However, my Not An Answer flags have returned disputed on all of the following answers:

This leads to the million-dollar question:

How can we change this?


We shouldn't change this. I'd have invalidated those flags too (you know, if I had the rep to do so or actually took the time to look at the review queue).

We've already determined that conventional answers are valid answers, even if people probably came here for something more "lifehacky". I don't see why saying "This product will solve the problem for you" should be marked as not an answer.

It's a perfectly valid answer. It might even be the best answer. It probably just won't be a lifehacky answer. But we have long ago determined that the "hackiness" of an answer does not determine whether or not it's a valid answer, so flagging these as NAA is wrong.

  • Then, what would be the difference between those "valid answers" and self-promotion/spam?
    – Braiam
    Feb 17 '15 at 14:45
  • 2
    The person typing a few words to explain why it solves the problem. If the person says "My pants keep falling down! What can I do rather than wearing a belt, because I hate belts?" and someone responds "Suspenders are designed to hold up pants!" and links to some suspenders, it's not a great answer but I think it would be clear to everyone how it solves the problem. I'd downvote it but not flag it. If it links to, say, the Farmville home page, then yeah, it's probably spam. I didn't click all the links above but even the first one with wifi range extenders seems to provide enough context.
    – Sterno
    Feb 17 '15 at 14:49
  • Obviously link only and whatnot still applies, but I agree 100%. Questions asking for a product recommendation should be off-topic. Answers offering only a product to solve the problem aren't NAA.
    – Unionhawk
    Feb 17 '15 at 14:52

No. Why would we? Just because an answer cites a specific product doesn't make it not an answer. Neither does proposing to acquire a product of a particular category.

The five posts that you cite do answer the question. They may not all be good answers, but they do answer the question.

If you disagree that the product is a good solution, that makes it a wrong answer — but an answer nonetheless. So downvote.

The meta thread you cite is about which kinds of questions are on-topic. It isn't about eliminating certain kinds of answers to off-topic questions.

It's unclear to me whether what you object to is mentioning a specific brand and model (like in four of the answers you cite) or suggesting to acquire something (for free, in one case). In any case, neither type of answer is invalid. There's been a lot of debate on meta on what is a “standard solution” and what is a “hack”, but even if you take the view that “standard solutions” are unwelcome (which would be highly detrimental to the site), this doesn't rule out answers that recommend products: a hack could well be to acquire a cheap product where a “standard solution” would be to acquire an expensive product.

We may consider an answer that just says “use this product” with no explanation to be so egregiously bad that it should be removed from the site, rather that merely relying on downvoting. We do this on software recommendations: answers that just say “use this” without explaining how the recommended product fits the requirements in the question are summarily deleted. This is not automatic: it requires a policy decided on meta, which Lifehacks doesn't have. Among these five answers, How to amplify laptop speakers? and How to vacuum room with minimal amount of effort? would be fine by SR.SE standards (they explain why the recommended product is a solution), whereas How can I boost my wifi range?, How to amplify laptop speakers? and How to steep but separate leaves in a teapot without a mesh strainer? would be borderline (none of them just says “use this” but they all devote only a short sentence to explaining the solution).


This was a comment, but I'm making it an answer.

When I answer a question and a product is the answer, I try to obtain a picture of the item, plus I look at several places where the item can be bought and provide a link to which one represents what I would buy myself. This is as an example. It is also out of courtesy. I will keep doing this. Amazon is so generic and so ubiquitous, it really can't be said someone is trying to sell Amazon. I have provided some from Amazon, but others too. I try to avoid product links, but if it fits, it fits.

I agree posting a product link with no verbiage is not appropriate.


I would argue that rather than "recommending products" or "hackiness" they are NAA's under the pretext that they don't actually explain how such product/service/thing would solve the specific problem being presented on the question. Why? The same as Software Recommendations, some solutions may be an already available product, but the only thing differentiating them from actual spam/blatant promotion, is that they take non-trivial effort in explaining how the solution helps to solve the problem or how to use the product to solve the problem.

I would recommend reading SoftRecs faq, specifically the one about answers to see how other sites deal with them, otherwise, LH community would have trouble separating actual solutions to the problem posed from spam.

  • I could be misunderstanding, but it seems like you're saying answers which recommend products should be deleted since they are spam (or could be spam). However, that doesn't make any sense to me. Sure, some product recommendations will be spam, but not all of them. We can delete the spammy ones, and leave the rest. There will be some spammy ones that are borderline which might slip through, but it's not a big deal. We shouldn't forbid an entire type of answer just because we're worried some spam might get through, that's just ridiculous.
    – Wipqozn
    Feb 17 '15 at 14:53
  • @Wipqozn ridiculous is that any link to some product page would be accepted as answer at all. It just doesn't pass the test of Your answer is in another castle: when is an answer not an answer?
    – Braiam
    Feb 17 '15 at 14:57
  • 1
    @Braiam I think you're conflating the issue of product recommendations as answers, and link-only answers. Yes, link only answers are bad. However, take a look at this answer that Mooseman flagged. You could strip the link from that answer and it still contains the meat of the answer: "Use a wifi range extender, dummy". It's a class of products specifically designed to solve the problem that is being asked about. Saying it's NAA because it recommends a product, or contains a link, is wrong.
    – Sterno
    Feb 17 '15 at 15:02

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